Let's have a talk about censorship

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Event
Event: Let's have a talk about censorship
Participants: LordSuragaha, Ame88, l3irdie, xSpirit and many more
Date(s): July 17, 2020
Type: Forum discussion and controversy
Fandom: FeralHeart, Feral (fandom)
URL:
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Let's have a talk about censorship is a thread on the official FeralHeart forums started by now-guest l3irdie (Birdie) on Jul 17, 2020, and around the same time several long time players left the game and forum. This thread has seven pages of replies and brings to light some of the problems that faced the community in Jul 2020. The topic was a discussion about how a thread on mental health started by xSpirit (the creator of FeralHeart Unleashed) had been deleted without any apparent given reason from staff. It is an archive of the event and stands as a list of grievances by forum members towards the staff members of the game. Grievances are especially focused on the sever host Razmirz ("Raz") and forum admin LordSuragaha ("Sura"), though the staff were also criticized as a whole.

The Post

The original post in its entirety by Birdie is below.

I know I said I'd leave forever and I will after this, but I just have a few thoughts and a question.

I don't have any intention to start "drama" or to make anyone look bad, the only thing I wish to gain from this clarity because I've got quite a few emotions over this.

So... what's up with continued censorship and hiding a thread asking where the mental health resources went? xSpirit made it around Christmas with completely innocent and good intentions, it was just to lend a helping hand to the greater community and to show that know, staff cared about users and their wellbeing. But it was suddenly removed from what I assume is because there are grievances between fhu's team and yours. And I just want to say that, if that is so, that isn't really okay nor a valid reason to remove a helpful resource and something that generally means well. Because it just appears to be done out of spite to me. I'm just frustrated that this happened and that certain threads or things are censored, hidden or removed. Especially things that are made with good intentions.

I apologize in advance if this ruffles any feathers, but I'm just seeking answers and reasoning for these things. I sincerely hope this isn't treated the same way as you treated the two threads I mentioned or is locked, because my frustrations and assumptions would be solidified.

That said, probably my last thread (i hope) Here's the national suicide helpline in the US: 1-800-273-8255 As well as some international resources for Europe; https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/Europe/

peace,
Let's Have a Talk About Censorship, now-guest l3irdie. Jul 17, 2020

Responses

A response from a forum admin named LordSuragaha ("Sura") stated that the staff had nothing to do with the deletion of the original post discussing mental health, but rather the site's owner, Razmirz ("Raz"), deleted it without giving a reason. Sura said that a new forum thread on mental health and suicide hotlines was going to be made in the wake of xSpirit's thread deletion. However, other members didn't find this response satisfactory and believed the original thread should not have been deleted in the first place. Other members began blatantly criticizing the staff in general, while a handful took to defending them.

Why is this even happening? What's the point? Is this all really worth it? To keep coming back here and stirring up things that have been long gone for god knows how long? You think this is going to fix anything at all?Azura, Jul 18, 2020
the fact that people are getting banned for either looking at this thread or commenting on it is really just,,,

a sign of mismanagement on the staff's end

this is why, when polled, your community said that they didn't trust y'all. bye i guess LMAO
OofSizeLarge, Jul 18, 2020
Why is this happening? Because, as a community, we're tired of being silenced for having an opinion. At this point, the game is dying. If you're trying to drive off your (tiny) active user base, this is a solid way to go. If you want a private game, Raz (& Sura) just pull the server offline and make it private for you and your clique. No need to take knee jerk reaction bans and just rip the life support off of this game. The virus-infecting ads and the (god awful) adf.ly links were bad enough but we tolerated it because we liked the game.sithis, Jul 18, 2020

LordSuragaha responded again after a barrage of comments on the thread, stating that they had now been receiving death threats and hateful comments due to l3irdie (who they were also claiming of using an alt named Apple Cider, but some players stated that they were different people who lived in the same area) talking about the issue on the FeralHeart Discord. Sura also accused l3irdie of lying about the staffs' involvement with the deletion to purposefully cause drama.

The problem arose when she decided to take a dishonest route to fabricate a negative story right away. Why not ask why she immediately took to a large FH Discord community to falsely report and accuse on something she had no answer to yet? Which resulted in the immediate back flow of troll accounts coming on to leave death threats, hateful comments, etc.

If the question came from an honest concern there would have been no need for that, and nothing would have escalated the way it has. Let’s be real here. The intention was to fan the flames of drama again needlessly and get a bunch of people to react. So before you point fingers at staff about how “poorly” they handled this situation let’s take a moment to talk about the dishonest & petty behavior of Birdie in the first place that led us all here. There’s a sequence of decisions and events that took place.

All she had to do was ask the staff a simple question. “Hey do you guys know what happened to this thread?” There didn’t need to be any strings attached, alternate accounts to build a narrative, and drama mongering in between. This could have all been avoided.

[snipped]
LordSuragaha, Jul 18, 2020

Some members saw this response as a way for the staff to dismiss the players' and l3irdie's concerns in the thread, arguing that though l3irdie may have been wrong about the staff as a whole censoring the original thread (as opposed to just Raz), that l3irdie had a right to be concerned and address the staff despite the tone of the post(s). Other members just stated that the thread was a "train wreck." An admin named PrettyReckless said "FeralHeart does not want to be responsible if something was to happen to their users," then said they were no longer planning to remake the thread and told them to go post a thread about it on FHU's forum instead. Immediately members became upset, in part due to the staff changing their mind about re-creating the thread. At least one member began questioning the mod LordSuragaha's claim of death threats, and even those who had previously defended the staff decisions (such as Dark_heart) began begging for Raz to make an appearance on the forums to sort things out. Sura was unable to produce any proof of death threats. However, another staff member named Bloo also mentioned getting threatening responses, specifically in staff evaluations, though its unclear if these were responses to this specific event or in general.[1]

The final response was from the moderator Ame88 on Jul 20, 2020, who then locked the thread. They said:

FeralHeart does not want to be held accountable if anything were to happen to a user who used our platform to seek help and failed to get the help they needed. As Ressy has said, the best thing for anyone to do is reach out to their doctor or local charity for these types of situations, or to seek out a specialized organization with professionals who are trained properly to handle these types of situations. Not an online roleplaying game. I understand all of your frustrations regarding this, however Razmirz has given his reasoning as to why he does not want that kind of thread on this game's forum, and there is nothing we can do to change his mind. If you do not agree with how he wants things to be run here on FeralHeart, then you are more than welcome to seek out a platform that meets your standards. I am terribly sorry. As for this thread itself, I will be locking it due to an answer being given to the original question, as well as the subject being thrown off topic with continued harassment towards others.Ame88, Jul 20, 2020

Despite Raz's reported fear in hosting a thread with links to suicide hot lines, the legal disclosure of the website in actuality protects them from any repercussions that could possible have arisen from the thread, implying that there may still have been a different motivation for the thread's removal. Other forum members had similar ideas.[2][3][note 1]

Aftermath and Final Response

This issue seems to have caused a rift within the community and may have constituted the wave of old time players leaving FeralHeart in Jul 2020 for the fan-made server FeralHeart Unleashed. Two days after the thread was locked Azura made a thread that stated " I'm watching everything I love crumble before me." Though the thread was calling for the forum to come back together and be unified once again, it also solidified the issues the community had with the staff, such as soft doxxing l3irdie and Apple Cider, claims of Sura banning several people for questioning staff, and Raz removing xSpirit's original post without any initial communication.[4] Several other threads were posted directly about the Jul 2020 forum drama such as Imagine Proving a Point, Not Involved, and A Message. "A Message," which was posted on Jul 21, 2020, began calling for Raz and Sura to leave the community, step down as staff, remove themselves from game involvement, or post an apology. The staff did not respond to the thread, but they did post a separate one.

Staff's final response came in the form a thread titled "To clear a few things up.." made on Jul 24, 2020 by admin PrettyReckless. Prettyreckless simply reiterated Raz's reasoning for the removal of the thread then denied any illegal practices regarding privacy policy (as some players accused Sura of breaking the law). Sura commented on the thread directly afterwards and apologized for their actions. Player response to the two admins' thread were varied. Some were happy that Sura apologized but still found issue that the problem happened in the first place. Others remained upset and continued to question the staffs' actions. Another mod named Bloo accepted the apology despite also being on the staff. Many players continued to question Raz's decision to remove xSpirit's thread and criticized his reason as to why he did it. Though other staff members got involved Raz never once directly responded to the players about the controversy, instead speaking through the admins, even as members (including xSpirit) continued to accuse the staff of breaking the law.[5]

14 members made threads in the "Leaving" section on Jul 2020, compared to 4 in Jun and 8 in May.[6] This makes the amount of players abandoning the game/community in Jul more than those in Jun and May combined.

References and Notes

References

  1. ^ Chat with Bloo "aLittleProzium", Discord. (Accessed 9/1/2020)
  2. ^ FeralHeart Site Terms and Conditions, FeralHeart Forum. (Accessed 8/16/2020)
  3. ^ It's time to stop, FeralHeart Forum. Falconry: "The only real reason it was deleted was because XSpirit wrote it." Jul 22, 2020 (Accessed 8/16/2020)
  4. ^ It's time to stop, FeralHeart Forum. Jul 22, 2020 (Accessed 8/13/2020)
  5. ^ To clear a few things up, FeralHeart Forums. Jul 24, 2020 (Accessed 8/17/2020)
  6. ^ Leaving, FeralHeart Forum. (Accessed 8/13/2020)

Notes

  1. ^ The threads about all these issues have sort of implied that the thread could have been removed because it was by xSpirit, the owner of FeralHeart Unleashed (a competitor) and because "as of February of 2020 xSpirit is in charge of enforcing KovuLKD's rights in his name." The site's legal disclaimer states "Your use of any information or materials on this website is entirely at your own risk, for which we shall not be liable. It shall be your own responsibility to ensure that any products, services or information available through this website meet your specific requirements," meaning Raz's eventual statement to staff on the deletion could have been an excuse. (Patchlamb 8/16/2020)